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Michael Neiss RSS Feed (Princeton, NJ United States)
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Memorex 40x Music CD-R Media - 50 Pack Spindle
Memorex 40x Music CD-R Media - 50 Pack Spindle
Price: $16.44
27 used & new from $12.00

1.0 out of 5 stars Memorex discs are an atrocity (almost 80% failure rate), September 8, 2014
I burn a fair amount of music on a professional TEAC recorder and have virtually no problems with Verbatim CD-R discs. Last year, I received a spindle of Memorex's best Frisbees as a gift and am very unhappy to report they are now all landfill. Name the malfunction (skipping, failure to close etc) and these ambitious saucers are pure genius. Junk.


America (Hybrid SACD)
America (Hybrid SACD)
Price: $23.86
29 used & new from $17.00

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America's Near Perfect Debut... Made Better, November 20, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: America (Hybrid SACD) (Audio CD)
For many of a certain age, America has always been a band as easy to dismiss as Crosby Stills Nash and Young wannabes - saturated with soaring harmonies that descend to earth not in the coming of age majesty of Sugar Mountain or Wooden Ships but on the frosted flaked flotsam of a Tony the Tiger garage band hacking away somewhere in Battle Creek Michigan - manufacturing empty-calorie musical trifles customized for the empty-headed, ear candy requirements of 1970s AM playlists.

Unfortunately, this conclusion would be unnecessarily cruel and unjust if you were to deny yourself the experience of rediscovering the band via the vastly improved Audio Fidelity gold-disc release of their 1971 self-titled debut, America - a lost in time masterwork that remains a crown jewel of the periods acoustic guitar based singer-songwriter obsessions.

While the remainder of the decade would see the band produce a prodigious string of hook-laden pop singles, even the presence of Beatles uber-producer Sir George Martin could not replicate the sustained brilliance of their maiden voyage.

For this one moment original band members Dan Peek, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley deliver an impossible to dismiss, almost perfect eleven-song suite to the loves and generational longings of venturing into adulthood during a period of great social strife. In fact, this album is so good it has always been considered an unofficial "greatest hits" collection featuring the now classic trio of A Horse With No Name, Sandman and I Need You.

We used to call these kinds of records "headphone albums" (yes, earbuds will do) best experienced in solitude and at high volume. My bet is that deep in the bowels of a Michigan basement a certain cartoon tiger coming down from a sugar high is doing the same. A highly recommended, essential disc.

p.s... don't be thrown off by the techno-babble of other reviews debating the merits of master tape origins and other nonsense. As someone who has owned this record on 8-track, vinyl and the criminally sub-par Warner Bros. CD, this gold-disc incarnation is a revelation and sounds amazing.


John Carter
John Carter
DVD ~ Taylor Kitsch
Price: $9.96
22 used & new from $3.39

6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disney's Red Ink Planet, September 22, 2013
This review is from: John Carter (DVD)
In any great Western there's almost always a call to "hang `em high." In the case of John Carter, Disney's 2012 spaghetti western science experiment that call came too soon for the legions of now unemployed production and marketing staff who brought this overwrought and under thought budget busting sci-fi-western-fantasy-romance-unintentional comedy to our midst only to see it subjected to a fusillade of critical pounding and countless empty theaters.

Originally envisioned as a franchise for the studio with two sequels already planned, those plans were immediately scuttled as Carter's Martian adventure brought with it an extraterrestrial write-down of $175 million for the Mouse House.

To be fair, I have to admit a rather perverse fascination for films that by any objective measure - really suck. Not films that started with an interesting premise but wound up sabotaged by a bit of odd casting and leaden acting (Waterworld?) but productions that failed dismally through self-inflicted head shots at every stage of development from concept, production, continuity and marketing.

Within a ridiculous, convoluted miasma of Peckinpaugh meets Leone meets Lucas meets Roddenberry meets Spielberg meets The Princess Bride, John Carter had no chance to ever present a cohesive storyline. Born on earth in the early 19th century, incomprehensively transported to Mars and thrust into their civil war all while beguiling a sullen princess who is promised in marriage to an enemy overlord.

In this deep space muddle, the required suspension of disbelief is never the problem, it is the suspension of belief that always intrudes on the film through absurd dialogue, nonsensical plot twists and action sequences that would make a video game programmer wince. My only salvation being the $30 multiplex ransom saved by viewing this mess on cable rather than in a deserted theater. Tough stuff from beginning to end.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 3:33 AM PST


The Watch
The Watch
DVD ~ Jonah Hill
Price: $7.98
143 used & new from $0.74

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Plan Asinine From Outer Space, August 15, 2013
This review is from: The Watch (DVD)
If not for several comedy heavyweights who populate the cast (Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn) Seth Rogan's The Watch could have, should have, been spared its brief and invisible wide-release in theaters and gone straight to video, or more honorably straight to landfill.

What little cohesion there is to the story and script went something like this... "hey guys, we'll roll and you just riff and improvise for however long you feel it... just make it as relentlessly vulgar and sub-juvenile as possible and we'll see if we can cobble this mess together in editing."

The result is so unendurably bad that it certainly qualifies as a Carlos Danger inspired high farce with the finished product being, for all intents and purposes, a flaccid, humor-free marathon of "dick jokes" and other scatological gems that seldom rise above the torso... all loosely framed within a preposterous storyline that has aliens preparing an armed invasion of earth from a Costco Warehouse Club somewhere in gated-community Ohio. An apropos locale since the jokes are manufactured in bulk with only a precious few hitting their marks - the rest inspiring a constipated grimace, uncomfortable groaning and/or lactose intolerance.

The Watch is an unfunny, uninteresting, obscenity... leaving me to conclude that somewhere in a celestial screening room, even Ed Wood is begging for mercy.


Oblivion
Oblivion
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Price: $9.99
147 used & new from $2.98

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Bad It's A Talkie, August 14, 2013
This review is from: Oblivion (DVD)
As a life-long fan of SciFi it is virtually impossible not to love Oblivion as a state-of-the art visual treat. My only dilemma - is it really possible to like it as a film? For many reasons, I remain conflicted. Without question the SFX are nonpareil, offering a visually stunning depiction of a circa 2077 discarded, dystopian earth now being harvested for its remaining natural resources. The population long since decamped to one of Saturn's moons Titan, leaving a skeleton crew of Sentinels to monitor the extraction machinery and exterminate the rag-tag remains of the "Scavs" who had invaded earth in the 2020's setting off our doomsday spiral. So far so good, especially the performance of Tom Cruise who as "Jack," the sentinel with soul, has remarkably shed his trademarked action-hero disaffection and glowering for something they used to call acting back in the 20th century.

Honestly, I'd be engaged as well if Jack's George Jetson meets Paul Blart blue collarness allowed me to survey the planet from the ultimate, coolest penthouse ever conceived for film - a 25,000 foot suspended aerie complete with an infinity pool that is literally just that.

Consequently, the first 45 minutes of the film is pure CGI perfection. Desiccated Super Bowl stadia lie in ruins, Petrified, post-nuclear city scapes abound, drying sea beds are littered by rusted husks of oil tankers and cruise ships taunting us with the smug nostalgia of how great we had it back in 2015....

...now comes the hard part, telling a story that can stand-alone from the visual pyrotechnics. In the case of Oblivion, the narrative skills of the director, Joseph Kosinski and screenwriters, Karl Gagdusek and Michael Arndt, conspire to near failure, all too frequently relying on story elements that seem arbitrary and implausible.

Forget the Scavs and the political machinations on Titan, in an out of nowhere twist, "Jack" has discovered a radiation free, paradise valley that he regularly visits to lay back on the grass, fly-fish in a lake fully stocked with trout and boogie to an epic but very ancient stereo system whose turntable is constantly fed by a huge collection of near pristine 1970's classic rock vinyl that must have once belonged to Cruise's pal Cameron Crowe.

All around him the steel and rock from a wrecked civilization have been fused into apocalyptic sculpture but please be assured that the 110 year old Pet Sounds album cover is completely intact. An unforgivable stretch in logic even for a film that constantly begs it from you.

While I suspect this device is utilized to anchor the story for a contemporary audience, seeing Cruise in his Adirondack chair, sporting a faded Yankees cap while getting off on the Allman Brothers is a WTF bridge-too-far for a story-line that is already crammed and conflicted - in fact this entire arc was so strange, I fully expected Gene Kelly to show up in the next scene asking for directions to Brigadoon.

All in all Oblivion is a VISUAL masterpiece that must be seen. However, with the exception of a haunting score by M.8.3 you could just as easily lament that this deeply flawed script was ever made into a Talkie. Too bad, because Tom Cruise actually tried in this one.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2013 7:18 PM PDT


Playing for Keeps (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Playing for Keeps (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Gerard Butler
Price: $9.99
16 used & new from $2.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Soccer Mom Dope Opera, April 15, 2013
Soccer is the perfect Playing for Keeps metaphor - slow, meandering and pointless with "extra time" put on the clock for no discernable reason except perhaps, to prolong the agony. Even by the trifling standards of the garden variety romantic comedy, PFK (under the AWOL direction of Gabriele Muccino) offers a redemption and reconciliation tale so poorly told that continuity, script supervision and character development were apparently early morning electives that Mr. Muccino must have decided to blow off.

Although I wasn't expecting much, in more skillful directorial hands a first-rate cast populated by Gerald Butler, Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman and Judy Greer should have at least guaranteed a minimum level of weekend watchability.

The story pivots around Gerald Butler's George, a retired David Beckham-esque soccer superstar who has returned to Virginia to reclaim his family and fortune decimated by a decade of bad decisions and bad luck. In an effort to reintroduce himself to his son Lewis (admirably played by Noah Lomax) George commandeers control of Lewis' junior soccer club and while teaching the team real skills inadvertently dampens the wardrobe of the gaggle of soccer moms (Thurman, Greer, Jones) who dutifully attend each practice and now race to bed George.

This is where the film really comes of the tracks as each seduction scene reveals women with such pervasive insecurities and below-zero self-esteem that it is hard to imagine any of them as the accomplished and affluent inhabitants of the take no prisoners Beltway culture that they purport to be charter members of. All in all it's Wisteria Lane meets Hysteria Lame with not even a tangential connection between storylines.

As if that weren't enough scripted ridiculousness for one sitting, all of these sleepy-time worst behavior hijinx takes place under the jaundiced eye of George's ex-wife (a Jessica Biel mail-in performance) who gamely decides that her naughty boy soccer stud is still the love of her life, compelling her to blow off the sturdy life and relationship that she has created post-divorce - with no plausible rationale as the clock ticks drearily towards the end credits. As an aside, I have too much respect for Dennis Quaid to even delve into his inexplicable presence in this film. Playing for Keeps is just a case of bare minimum expectations not even met.


Rock of Ages
Rock of Ages
DVD ~ Julianne Hough
Price: $3.99
24 used & new from $1.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Rod Serling meet Def Leppard, March 28, 2013
This review is from: Rock of Ages (DVD)
Watching Rock of Ages one is quickly reminded of the old existential teaser which stipulates that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of an infinite number of typewriters eventually one of the eager little simeons will type Shakespeare. Or, more plausibly, if these same monkeys are subjected to a free screening of Rock of Ages they will eventually run amok, rise against their masters and fitfully create their own Planet of the Apes sequel in order to redress such unremitting cruelty.

Rock of Ages is not just a bad film, it is an excruciatingly bad film with a rationale for being made that in my present state of disbelief, I cannot even fathom. From the first frames, where a Greyhound busload of Midwestern farmers spontaneously break out into a chorus of Night Ranger's cloying anthem Sister Christian, my jaw never left the floor. Fast-forward through the hackneyed Def Leppard meets Oklahoma, girl meets boy homage to 1980' s Hair Bands and you have an MTV inspired clusterf__k of Rock Me Like a Hurricane proportions.

And finally, overlay this mess with an Oscar-caliber cast (Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta Jones, Bryan Cranston and a highly opiated Tom Cruise channeling Axl Rose) who all look like principals in a hostage video ready to fire their agents. All in all, see it if you must but like those monkeys at the keyboard, after 10 minutes of this mind numbing drek you might find yourself changing your name to Cornelius and hurling your banana through the screen.


The Intouchables
The Intouchables
DVD ~ François Cluzet
Price: $11.49
16 used & new from $8.19

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Film Gods Must Be Crazy, March 11, 2013
This review is from: The Intouchables (DVD)
If you found yourself wading through the mainstream reviews of The Intouchables in the American press, I doubt you would even recognize this magnificent film. From what is a remarkable, mesmerizing and poignant tribute to the power of authentic human connection over the paralysis of fear, lovelessness and ennui, Variety and The New York Times among others, choose to see this truth-based relationship between an aristocratic French quadriplegic and his street-tough black caregiver as a red, white and blue meme to the continuing plague of racial stereotyping and class-based exploitation.

As Jerry Lewis has learned the hard way over decades, America ain't France and I would therefore most humbly suggest to the lions of professional judgment that they view the film without the baggage and institutionalized biases that overwhelm their own criticisms of it. What the critics-for-hire anticipated was the stillborn, racial clownishness of Eddie Murphy and Judge Reinhold in Beverly Hills Cop - what the film delivered was something real and touching that they couldn't explain, so they forced their original narrative anyway.

I am the first one to roll may eyes at any film that is overwrought by any political or ham handed social agenda - thankfully, this screenwriter borne virus is not an issue with this film.

The Intouchables is the rare film where you know from the first five minutes that you are watching something special. The subtitles melt quickly into the background as the real-world relationship between billionaire Philippe and reluctant caregiver Driss is propelled by the bravura performances of actors Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy. The proceedings elevate further as the bone-dry subtlety of the highly intelligent, serio-comic screenplay of writers Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano crackles with prescient insight.

The Intouchables is in fact a genuine "feel good" film that mass-audience populars like Silver Linings Playbook can only aspire to. Playbook, while enjoyable to watch, allows powerful star-turn acting to be habitually hamstrung by too cute by half emotional manipulation and story-line choreography that delivers every player to their predestined against-all-odds triumph that even the dullest member of the audience could have easily predicted.

Time will tell whether the must-see Intouchables cracks my personal top ten. In the meantime, enjoy and savor this rare treat of a film.


Peace Love & Misunderstanding
Peace Love & Misunderstanding
DVD ~ Jane Fonda
Offered by Clyde Parks
Price: $7.64
63 used & new from $1.99

10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars On Golden Bong, January 7, 2013
Whatever you think (or don't think) of the charming 1981 Fonda reunion film, On Golden Pond allowed us a poignent fly-on-the-wall perspective as the father-daughter antagonists (Jane and Henry) worked through their estrangement over Jane's lifelong commitment to political activism. Fast-forward to 2011 and you'll find no such authenticity running through Peace, Love and Misunderstanding - Jane's dime-bag drama celebrating the enduring (self) righteousness of the 1960's counter culture and free-floating bohemia.

Wasted performances are the casualties of a script that makes a virtue of endless cliche' and bumper sticker bromides extolling the indefatigable grooviness of a period remembered as much today for its soundtrack as its misguided nihilism.

Unfortunately, the usually reliable Catherine Keener sleepwalks through her role as Fonda's estranged daughter Diane who has retreated from corporate lawyerdom to her mother's Woodstock compound to nurse her post-divorce wounds. In tow are two grandchildren who either fill their time complaining about bad cell reception or stare in wide-eyed wonder at their stoner grandmother's adopted role as matriarch to a community still enthralled by free love, moist herb and wilderness "happenings" where clothing (and screenplay) is clearly optional.

Jane's revisionist Woodstock is populated with every progressive trendling now known - flash mob war protests, free-range animals roaming unaccosted throughout the house and even the lovable local nudist who visits daily for breakfast, presumably to scare up a game of penile ring toss with his Cheerios. Given its Woodstock proximity, Peace, Love wouldn't be complete without endless references to "Jimi, Janice and Jerry." Even Rosanna Arquette drops by for a roach clipped cameo.

Cringe worthy moments abound, witness Fonda barely containing her graternal pride in the telling that "Dylan had a thing for her." Further nausea is summoned when Grace reveals that her daughter was delivered backstage "at the festival" just as Hendrix delivered his incendiary version of The Star Spangled Banner. Jesus, did the screenwriters ever take their lips off the pipe long enough to read this mess? Pure nonsense. Throughout this late career bummer, Annoi Jane is so consumed in the pushing of every SDS hot button that she finally becomes the hippie chick parody of herself that even the delightfully dreadful Barbarella (or her most ardent critics) could never make stick. A tragic, self-inflicted outcome for such an accomplished actress.

Peace, Love and Misunderstanding is atrocious moviemaking - a banal cartoon masquerading as an important "message" film. In its own navel gazing way Peace, Love literally accomplishes the impossible, making Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure play like Cinema Paradiso. My recommendation is to revel in this glorious mess, celebrate its stupidity, scarf some Mallomars and laugh till it hurts.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2014 5:13 PM PDT


That's Why God Made the Radio
That's Why God Made the Radio
Offered by B68 Solutions Limited
Price: $7.75
149 used & new from $0.97

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From relics to relevance, June 7, 2012
Given the torpor of their most recent group recordings, the news of a 50th anniversary Beach Boys reunion album brought with it nightmarish expectations of a shadow of their former selves pity release propped up only by nostalgia and sympathy. Well, whatever god made their radio must be a celestial surfer at heart since That's Why God Made The Radio is a stunningly beautiful record that offers a meticulously crafted twelve song homage to their beloved Southern California that has fully tapped into the amber of their signature harmonies and fused it with their most inspired composition and production this side of Holland and Surf's Up.

Instead of populating the record with a Hamburger Helper hodgepodge of warmed over covers and throwaway solo tracks - all cobbled together under the fraying Beach Boys brand - Radio is an authentic group effort that accentuates the soundscape mastery of Brian Wilson while smartly relegating Mike Love's annoying preference for Hawaiian shirted "Admiral Sunscreen" self-parody to the safety of an "executive producer" purgatory. Brian is in full control and it shows as he deftly imports the majority of his SMILE touring band, including the incomparable Jeff Foskett, to augment the proceedings.

Although I harbor none of the gauzy notions held by some fans that at fifty years in the Beach Boys have summoned all of their experience and talent to create their best record however, given what it could have been, it is much more than an unexpected pleasure. It is sublime. From the plaintive opening chords of Think About The Days to the soft harmonic fade of Brain's chilling Summer's Gone, Radio is an exquisite swan song from a group that has smashed its way back from antiquity to relevance. An essential recording.


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